March is Women’s History Month! To celebrate, we’ve put together a selection of books written by and about women involved in the United States Women’s Liberation Movement. Learn about this pivotal era in women’s "herstory" through the words of those active in its energy and achievements!
“Simply put, feminism is a movement to end sexism, sexist exploitation, and oppression” - bell hooks
“A black feminist or feminist of color... Womanist is to feminist as purple is to lavender.” - Alice Walker
Betty Friedan (1921–2006) published The Feminine Mystique in 1963, Friedan's work spoke to the experiences of some middle-class women who felt dissatisfied by their roles as homemakers. This book spread new consciousness, and ultimately sparked the early days of the Women’s Liberation Movement. Check it out from your local library, it’s even available as an audiobook!
Created by the Boston Women's Health Book Collective in the late 1960s, Our Bodies, Ourselves provided revolutionary access to information about women’s health. The library circulates many editions of this book, as well as Our Bodies, Ourselves: Pregnancy and Birth.
Gloria Steinem (b. 1934) is an American journalist and political activist who was central to the mainstream image of the Women's Liberation Movement. She has written multiple books including Revolution from Within: a Book of Self-Esteem, Outrageous Acts and Everyday Rebellions and a recent memoir of her time touring, organizing, and speaking on women’s issues, My Life on the Road.
“The truth will set you free, but first it will piss you off.” – Gloria Steinem
Fun fact: Steinem was approached to have a documentary made about her life, but she argued that it should instead focus on the broader history of U.S. feminist activism. The documentary series Makers was released by PBS in 2013.
Susan Brownmiller (b. 1935) is a feminist activist who wrote on topics that included feminist politics of femininity and the realities of sexual assault. She has published a fascinating memoir, In Our Time: Memoir of a Revolution.
“Who said that clothes make a statement? What an understatement that was. Clothes never shut up.” – Susan Brownmiller
Audre Lorde (1934–1992) was a brilliant and passionate feminist/womanist activist and writer who made invaluable contributions to the political movements surrounding gender, race and class.
“It is not our differences that divide us. It is our inability to recognize, accept and celebrate those differences.” – Audre Lorde
Fun fact: Lorde also worked as a librarian!
Adrienne Rich (1929–2012) was a radical feminist poet and essayist whose work influenced millions of individuals – not to mention ongoing decades of feminist theory and activism. Check out her work with your library card, including The Fact of a Doorframe: Poems Selected and New 1950-1984 and Blood, Bread, and Poetry: Selected Prose 1979-1985.
“It's exhilarating to be alive in a time of awakening consciousness; it can also be confusing, disorienting and painful.” – Adrienne Rich
Angela Davis (b. 1944) is a political activist and author of several books, including a 1974 autobiography, as well as Blues legacies and Black feminism: Gertrude "Ma" Rainey, Bessie Smith, and Billie Holiday. Her decades of written works, activism and teaching have led to countless progress for feminism, civil rights and what she termed as the “prison-industrial complex.”
“Radical simply means ‘grasping things at the root.’” – Angela Davis
In addition to the above-mentioned PBS documentary Makers, BCLS also has several other phenomenal documentaries on the Women’s Liberation Movement, including:
Radical Harmonies chronicles the “women’s music” movement that grew from the Women's Liberation Movement. “Women’s music” refers to the cultural movement that produced women-run record labels (such as Olivia Records), hundreds of records by women musical artists, and decades of music festivals geared toward women audiences eager to ignite women’s empowerment! Some featured musical artists: Indigo Girls, Cris Williamson, Tracy Chapman, Ani DiFranco and Sweet Honey in the Rock.
She’s Beautiful When She’s Angry (2014) is a documentary covering the multifaceted herstory of the Women's Liberation Movement. Interviews with many activists are featured, including Susan Brownmiller, Rita Mae Brown, Kate Millett, Alix Kates Shulman, Karla Jay, Susan Griffin, Gloria Steinem and women from the Boston Women's Health Collective.